Nurses group rebuts DOH statement on high COVID-19 infection rate among PH healthcare workers

·2 min read

MANILA, Philippines — A group of nurses contradicted the claim of the Department of Health (DOH) that most healthcare workers got infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) from outside their workplaces.

As of DOH’s latest report on Monday (April 27), a total of 1,120 healthcare workers have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Filipino Nurses United said it is the inadequacy of PPEs and long hours of duty without breaks that compromise the safety, health, and lives of nurses. 

“We have received reports that nurses do not eat, drink nor take comfort room breaks so as not to soil or discard the PPEs,” the group said in a statement. 

“Furthermore, long duty hours of more than eight hours per shift or over 40 hours a week due to severe understaffing make them much more vulnerable to COVID-19 and other diseases due to weakened immune systems,” it added.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III last week alleged medical workers of bad habits in handling their PPEs.

“Paglabas, tatanggalin nila ang PPEs nila pero ang scrub suits underneath, hindi nila tinatanggal. Lalabas sila kapag ganoon ang nangyari, talagang you will expect a contamination to happen [When they go out, they remove their PPEs but not the scrub suit underneath. They go out, and if that’s the case, you will expect contamination to happen],” Duque claimed in one of his press briefings.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire shared the same reasoning. 

“When they go home and when they go back to work and they get infections outside of their workplaces,” she said in a separate interview.

But the group argued that “wearing PPEs for 12 hours of duty for seven days or 14 days straight duty causes nurses to suffer from suffocation, exhaustion, and dehydration because of extreme heat from the coveralls which compromise their breathing.”

Such conditions in workplaces, the group said, have already caused nurses to suffer vertigo, hypertension, fluid, and electrolyte imbalance such as hypokalemia or low potassium levels due to severe perspiration.

Thus, the nurses’ group has asked the national government for support such as an adequate supply of PPEs and the augmentation of manpower in hospitals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) already expressed concern over the high rate of COVID-19 infection among healthcare workers in the Philippines, one of the highest in the Western Pacific Region. 

The international health body recommends hospitals to reduce the hours of nurses’ and doctors’ duty as well as other medical personnel. MNP (with reports from Aiko Miguel)

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